Amol Rajan: You have power in your hands, so why not use it?

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The Independent Online

Everybody knows that party politics as we know it in Britain is collapsing. In 1951, the Conservative Party had over 2,850,000 members; today it is not even a tenth of that. Labour membership is shrinking fast too. For much of the 20th century, over 80 per cent of those eligible to vote did so; on current trends, that number could fall to below a shocking 30 per cent by the end of this decade.

Trust in our elected representatives has never been lower, according to a YouGov survey carried out this year. The reasons are many and varied. Clearly the expenses scandal tarnished the reputation of all the political class, not just those who made headlines. The relentless cynicism of our media – in particular tabloid newspapers – means that entry into the world of politics comes with an instant besmirching in the public domain.

Partly, too, it is the feeling that a vote doesn't count, or a protest isn't heard. Our ridiculous and anachronistic electoral system means that two-thirds of voters are all but ignored during General Elections. Meanwhile, a million people marched against the Iraq War, and still our leaders bombed that country on a false prospectus.

Then there is the fact that many governments are simply no good at fulfilling promises, saying one thing to get elected and doing another in office – or simply so incompetent and stuffed with dullards that it becomes a national embarrassment.

All these are reasons to be dismayed by party politics. Some have more merit than others. Can you identify with any of them? Are you put off voting for one or all the reasons outlined above?

Well, don't be. Grow up and get out and vote. Today is election day across vast swathes of the country, and those people who don't vote bring shame on their fellow citizens. It takes a special kind of entitlement to think that the generations of women and men who died to preserve democracy on these isles should have died for nothing. They didn't make those sacrifices because of their vanity; rather, they believed in ideals that will endure so long as good people are alive.

The ballot box is one of the most precious and sacred institutions that mankind has yet come up with. That we have a ritual in which the ruled tell their rulers what they can or can't do is one of the remaining reasons to be proud of being British. Moan all you like about the system; but you owe it to history, to yourself, and to the rest of us to vote today.